So you want to add a little bundle of love to your household? A cuddly little kitten or a roly-poly puppy?
Adult or senior pets make wonderful companions and they're ideal for people who don't want to go through the housebreaking, litter box training, chewing and general craziness that goes with adding a puppy or kitten to the household. Since older pets are often less adoptable - lacking the cuteness that is part and parcel of kittens and puppies - adding an older pet to your household may also mean saving a life.
But for those of you who have your hearts set on a younger pet, there's a lot to be considered before taking that big step.
WARREN'S NUMBER ONE RULE
Never buy or acquire a pet on impulse. I am not a believer in what I call our society's "revolving pet mentality." People get a pet, then discover it's too much to handle or cramps their lifestyle. The result - the pet winds up in a shelter or is simply let loose to fend for itself. As far as I'm concerned, once a living creature comes into my house and pees on my rug, it's there for life!
ARE YOU READY FOR THE COMMITMENT
The decision to acquire a pet requires an understanding of the responsibility that goes with pet ownership. It's a commitment that lasts a lifetime. Here are some questions to consider:
Can you afford a pet? This includes the purchase price (if your pet is not adopted), food, veterinary care, grooming, boarding and training.
Do you have sufficient room for a pet? While this is not as much a consideration with cats it is a big factor when considering a dog. Great Danes in studio apartments can be a little tough unless you both can spend a lot of time outdoors!
What kind of lifestyle best describes you - active or a couch potato? As I'm a believer in keeping all cats indoors (unless they're on a leash and harness), this is more of a consideration when it comes to dogs. Certain dogs require a lot of exercise. Can you provide it?
How about other family members? Are there little children in the household? If so, and you're considering a dog, you might be better off with one of the larger breeds that can better withstand the rough and tumble play of youngsters.
Will you be available to give a pet the care he or she needs? If you travel for business, what kind of arrangements will you make for your pet's care in your absence? Will you have the time and patience for grooming, especially If you opt for a Persian cat or an Old English Sheep Dog?
PUREBRED VERSUS GENERIC
One of the pluses of buying a purebred dog or cat is that you basically know what the kitten or puppy will look like when full grown. This is particularly true when it comes to dogs. Many a dog owner has adopted what they thought was going to be a little dog from a shelter, only to find that it grew to be 90 pounds!
If it's temperament that you're concerned about, you'll do just as well with a generic puppy or kitten as a purebred. Remember, as far as I'm concerned, it's what you put into your pet once you get him home. The type of environment you provide your new pet will go a long way towards determining his temperament. Raise a generic puppy or kitten with loving care and you'll have a loving companion. Raise a purebred in a crack house and you're guaranteed to have an aggressive animal.
IF YOU OPT TO BUY FROM A BREEDER
Since you can't look in the phone book under "R" for reputable breeders, you'll need to check out the breeder's credentials. Check with the American Kennel Club (for dogs), The Cat Fanciers' Association, specialty breed clubs and local breed clubs for referrals. Get references from the breeder's former buyers. Inspect the breeder's kennel or cattery. Is it clean and odor-free? How do the adults look? You'll especially want to take a look at the parents. Will the breeder guarantee the health of his animals, or permit you to have the puppy or kitten taken to your vet for a check-up? If you're buying a pedigree, does the breeder have all the papers and documentation necessary?
CHOOSING THAT SPECIAL FURBALL
Whether you opt to adopt from a shelter or purchase from a reputable breeder, there are things you should look for when selecting a happy, healthy pet.
When choosing from a litter or several animals, look for the puppy or kitten who is not the most gregarious nor the most shy. The key here is moderation. The little furball who approaches you, then backs off, falls into the moderate category.
Physically, the furball should be plump and lively with sparkling eyes and a shiny coat. Inspect his mouth. His breath should be fresh , his gums firm and pink, and his teeth should be white. Take a look at the other end, too. The rear should be clean, not encrusted with feces which could indicate diarrhea or some other illness.
Generally speaking, if you're choosing a new puppy (purebred or generic), choose one between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks. Any younger and he will not have had enough time to socialize with his litter mates; any older and he may have bonded too closely to them. For kittens, I also prefer 8-12 weeks of age for the same reasons. Remember, this is a rule of thumb and it isn't to say that older kittens and puppies don't make fine companions.
PLAN IN ADVANCE
And finally, prepare your home for the new furball's arrival before he actually sets foot in the door. Where will he sleep? Where will the litter box be placed or the housebreaking be done? Be sure your home is puppy or kitten proofed to insure that your newest family member will be safe. You wouldn't dream of bringing home a new baby without preparation. The same holds true for our pets.
With some thought and understanding before hand, I'll guarantee you'll have a friend for life!